Department of Health and Children

Major archival listing and meta data generation project on the records held by the DoH&C relating to children in care

The issue of the treatment and conditions of children in state care became the subject of public debate in Ireland in the early 2000’s as illustrated by the States of Fear series aired on RTE and the subsequent LeFoy/Ryan Commission. The question of access to the records of these children was addressed by the Department of Health & Children (DoHC) through the setting up of the Access to Institutional and Related Records (AIRR) project.

The AIRR project addressed DoHC records related to child care services from the 1920s through to the 1990’s. The DoHC had indirect responsibility for children in care and provided inspection of foster homes funded by local authorities from 1902. The DoHC had no responsibility for children placed in institutional care through the courts (Dept of Education).

The purpose of the AIRR project was to identify records concerning inspections of institutions and foster homes that mention individual children and to create a comprehensive archive of historical child care records to facilitate access and retrieval of personal information with regard to the FOI and Data protection legislation.

A team of seven archivists dealt with these sensitive records. The approach was that files were microfilmed/scanned and placed on a server, each file was then assigned a unique ID ‘tracker no.’. The archivists extracted personal details and recorded all references to children; Date(s) of birth, name(s) of carer(s), dates in care and biographical information where possible.

The project required the highest level of accuracy and confidentiality. To ensure this Eneclann developed a methodology for standardisation, accuracy and accessibility. The project employed a proven validation system where every entry was checked by qualified archivists. The team indexed in excess of 200,000 records to this standard.